Written with an emotional honesty that resonates throughout, Meg Mullins's Dear Strangers presents the shifting insecurities of Oliver Finely as he embarks on a journey to reconnect with
his long-lost adopted brother. A sensitive and artistic young man, Oliver makes his living videoing other peopleís pasts. Lately, however, Oliver has had a sense that his life is finally coalescing into something else.
A fact-finder and a sleuth, Oliver has been regularly parking in front of a gourmet market downtown and spying on a boy called Jared, remembering a summer twenty-one years ago when his parents adopted a baby but were unable to keep it when his father suddenly died of a heart attack. Jared ends up encapsulating much of Oliverís life with the toughness around his eyes, his wiry arms, jagged teeth and a birthmark that fits him in a way Oliver had been unable to imagine it fitting anyone else.
This is the first thread of Mullenís dappled narrative, a novel of interwoven lives, all of them peripherally yet poignantly connected. While Mr. Scap, a premier divorce lawyer, is turning over in his mind the travails of Missy Rolondo and the stalking of her husband, Andy, Oliverís sister Mary has sought to escape her childhood by taking to the skies.
An airline attendant, Mary has learned to practice detachment as a way of floating through the pain of life.
The baby that her family was forced to give up has gradually receded from her, along with the wishful thinking
that could have doomed her to perpetually chase Oliverís phantoms.
When an incident of mistaken identity and an accidental shooting change the lives of Mullins's characters, Oliver steps into Jaredís childhood, manipulating time for both of them as the assembled shreds of an invented past come together, conveying the truth about what might have been.
Floating in and out of Oliverís childhood, Mullins recounts Oliverís efforts to produce a dossier of emotional evidence to illustrate his case.
Throughout, Olivier remains a cipher, along with Miranda, a carefree young artist who beguiles Oliver with photos of strangers in their homes. A natural artist, Oliver naturally gravitates to Mirandaís beauty and unmistakable charms.
Much of the drama is filtered through the respective lenses of Miranda and Oliver as these characters are
all reminded of how quickly everything can change. A sensitive, artistic soul, Oliver is not equipped for the difficult times ahead. When tragedy strikes, the bonds of family moments and gentle revelations create an unbreakable bond. Oliver reminds us not only of lifeís fragility but also of its resiliency, and how a brother can be lost and then miraculously restored.